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Castellani v. City of Atlantic City

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 15, 2014

DAVID CONNOR CASTELLANI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ATLANTIC CITY et al., Defendants.

Jennifer Bonjean, Bonjean Law Group, PLLC, Brooklyn, NY, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Patrick J. Wolfe, Esquire, Sharlenn E. Pratt, Esquire, Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer & Toddy, P.C., Marlton, NJ, Attorneys for Defendants.

OPINION

RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon a motion by Defendants, City of Atlantic City, and Police Officers Stearling Wheaten, Darren Lorady, Avette Harper, Kevin Law, Scott Sendrick, and Matthew Rogers to stay the proceedings in the above-captioned matter until the final adjudication of criminal charges currently pending against Plaintiff, David Connor Castellani ("Castellani"). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion shall be denied without prejudice.

I. Background

The facts relevant to the instant motion are undisputed. On October 1, 2013, Plaintiff filed the above-captioned matter alleging that on June 15, 2013, the Defendant Officers falsely arrested him while using excessive force in violation of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, conspired to violate Plaintiff's civil rights, and committed several tort law violations. Plaintiff also avers that the City of Atlantic City ("City") had a custom, policy or practice that was the moving force behind the alleged violations. Plaintiff filed a Notice of Tort Claim with the City on September 9, 2013.

As a result of the arrest that gave rise to this matter, there are currently pending criminal charges against Plaintiff filed in the New Jersey Superior Court, Atlantic County. These criminal charges include: disorderly conduct in violation of N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-2(A)(1); aggravated assault on a police officer in violation of N.J.S.A. § 2C:12-1(b)(5)(a); resisting arrest by using physical force and violence in violation of N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-2A(3)(A); and assault of a police animal in violation of N.J.S.A. § 2C:29-3.1.

The Defendants contend that this matter must be stayed pending the final adjudication of Plaintiff's criminal charges pursuant to the holding in Wallace v. Kato , 549 U.S. 384 (2007) and that Plaintiff's pendent state law tort claims must be stayed pursuant to the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. The duration of the stay is indefinite "pending the outcome of the criminal charges." Defs.' Br. at 12. The Plaintiff opposes the stay and argues that there is "no authority to justify a stay where the gravamen of the Plaintiff's complaint is excessive force." P's Br. at ¶7.

II. Standard

The stay of a civil proceeding is an extraordinary remedy. Walsh Securities, Inc. v. Cristo Property Management, Ltd. , 7 F.Supp.2d 523, 526 (D.N.J. 1998). However, a court has the discretion to stay a case if the interests of justice so require. U.S. v. Kordel , 397 U.S. 1, 12 n. 27 (1970). A stay of a civil case where there are pending criminal proceedings is not constitutionally required, but may be warranted in certain circumstances. Id .; Cress v. City of Ventnor, No. 08-1873, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22172, at *5 (D.N.J. Mar. 18, 2009).

The factors to be considered in deciding whether to grant a stay are:

1) the extent to which the issues in the criminal and civil cases overlap;
2) the status of the case, including whether the defendants have been indicted;
3) the plaintiff's interests in proceeding expeditiously weighed against the prejudice to ...

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